Comfy sweatpants are great, but it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. For the best part of the last two years, people all over the world have been living in loungewear. There’s been nothing to dress up for and therefore no need for any type of legwear outside of joggers or shorts. Even donning a pair of jeans felt like a special occasion.
Now, as the world opens back up, it’s time to reach for something dressier. Something stylish and sharp that can be teamed up with tailoring, or styled to elevate casual pieces. We’ll refer to these styles collectively as ‘smart trousers’ and there are a few key variations that no man should be without.
Below, we take a look at the best smart trouser styles, why you need them and how to style them. From time-honoured traditional styles to contemporary classics, these are the smart trousers every man should own.
What Are Smart Trousers?
‘Smart trousers’ is an umbrella term that covers lots of different styles. They can best be pinned down as any type of legwear that naturally pairs with tailoring. They’re often cut from the same cloth as suiting – so think less denim and twill, more wool, gabardine and cashmere.
Smart trousers often feature tailored details like a crease, which helps to elongate the leg and draw the eye. There may also be pleats, a hook-and-bar fastening to the front and discreet slit pockets, as opposed to something like patch pockets.
There are several things to think about before pulling the trigger on a pair of smart trousers. Things like the season, setting and your body shape all affect what styles will work best for you, so it’s important to take these deciding factors into account when making a purchase. From how the trousers fit to how much you want to spend, these are the key buying considerations to make when it comes to smart legwear.
How smart trousers should fit
We’re firm believers that fit is the most important aspect of pretty much any garment. It doesn’t matter where it’s made, what it’s made from or how much it costs, if the fit’s off then it’s never going to look good.
This is where it pays to think about your body shape. Of course, you should wear whatever makes you feel most comfortable, but as a general rule, those with slim legs will suit a slim- to regular-fit trouser, while those with broader legs tend to suit a regular or relaxed fit.
If you have muscular legs with large thighs, a tapered leg might be the best way to go.
Smart Trousers Fabric Choice
Fabric is another important detail to consider. Think about season and the climate where you live when choosing your smart trousers. Heavyweight fabrics like wool and cord are best suited to colder weather in autumn and winter, while lighter fabrics, like linen, are most at home in warm weather.
Matching the fabric to the time of year will help to ensure comfort and enable you to look your best whatever the weather.
When it comes to colour, darker shades are generally more appropriate for fall/winter and lighter shades are better for the warmer months.
Avoid anything too garish to ensure versatility across your wardrobe and stick to classic colours like navy, grey, beige and off-white.
Expect to spend a little more on smart trousers than you might on their casual counterparts. This type of legwear is often made from expensive materials and features tailored elements which can drive the price up.
It’s possible to get a pair of smart pants on a budget, but if you’re going to buy something cheap our advice would always be to have your local tailor alter it specifically for you.
Smart Trouser Styles Every Man Should Own
Grey Wool Trousers
Simple, timeless and versatile, a proper pair of wool suit trousers in grey is a must for any stylish man. For maximum wearability, opt for a regular tapered leg. This is a nice balanced cut that will work with everything in your wardrobe and can easily be dressed up or down.
For a modern twist on smart casual, wear them with a tucked white T-shirt or cream roll neck, luxe leather or suede sneakers and a contrasting blazer – navy is always a good choice. For something slightly dressier, swap the sneakers for a classic black derby shoe and style the top half with a poplin shirt, fitted jacket and contrasting pocket square.
If you thought pleated trousers were just for OAPs then think again. With loose-legged styles dominating menswear at the moment, the roominess created by a pleated waist isn’t just comfortable but bang on trend too.
Pleated trousers are perfect for wearing with more relaxed, slouchy and unstructured tailoring, and can be dressed down with sneakers and casual outerwear too.
There are two different types of pleats: forwards and reverse. This refers to the direction the crease faces, with forwards pleats being more common in traditional British tailoring and reverse pleats more typical of Italian tailoring. Both have the same effect of creating more room around the crotch and seat of the trousers.
The 70s revival is one trend that simply refuses to go away. Perhaps it’s time we all admitted that this is just a part of how we dress now and embraced it by investing in a pair of corduroys? These textured trousers have spent decades being derided. People called them uncool and made jokes about geography teachers, but the truth is that anyone who thinks cords look bad probably just doesn’t know how to style them.
Our suggestion would be to opt for a nice earthy colour and wear them with other textured pieces like heavy-gauge knitwear, fleece jackets, suede chukka boots and wool outerwear.
Being drenched in sweat at a wedding or out for dinner on a summer’s evening is never a good look. So, how can a man look smart and stay cool at the same time? The answer is to invest in some linen garments, and a good pair of linen-blend trousers should be top of the list.
Boasting the best properties of both linen and cotton, they’re light, airy, breathable and quick drying. However, unlike regular linen, they aren’t as prone to creasing and looking crumpled. Wear them with a Cuban collar shirt and loafers for a futureproof smart casual summer outfit.
This mid-century style provides a subtle way to play with the body’s proportions and can be a great tool for spicing up your style. It’s something different and can look great, provided you don’t take your cues from Simon Cowell.
Instead, team them up with other retro mid-century pieces. Think Cuban collar shirts, slouchy tailoring, or even just with a plain white tee tucked into the waistband.
Cropped Dress Trousers
Going for a cropped-leg trouser is another handy way to make your tailoring summer appropriate. This type of legwear will let your ankles breathe while showing off your footwear in a way that a standard length dress pant simply can’t compete with.
This style will suit a wide range of body types, but we’d advise steering clear if you’re particularly tall and thin or have very long legs as the shorter leg can emphasise this and create the impression that you’re unintentionally wearing trousers that are too small.